Kentucky Senate Committee Contemplates Looming Child Care Crisis

FRANKFORT — Kentucky’s child care providers are facing a financial crisis, and the state legislature is being asked to provide support. During a hearing on Tuesday, the Senate committee discussed one of the most urgent issues that the General Assembly is currently facing.

Chairman Danny Carroll and several members of the Senate Families and Children Committee expressed their commitment to finding solutions for the challenges that the state’s child care industry is confronting.

As federal COVID-era assistance is coming to an end, child care providers in Kentucky are hoping that the legislature will step in and subsidize the industry. The goal is to prevent closures, pay cuts, and increased tuition for parents, according to the Lantern.

Governor Andy Beshear proposed a budget in December, in which he stated his desire to allocate $141 million over the next two years to support the child care industry. However, advocates argue that this amount is not sufficient.

The governor’s plan to dedicate $172 million to start funding universal preschool for Kentucky 4-year-olds also raises concerns among industry experts. This is because child care centers rely on children of this age group to generate profits, as they can accommodate larger teacher-to-student ratios compared to babies.

During the committee hearing, Sarah Vanover, the policy and research director for Kentucky Youth Advocates, emphasized that while universal pre-K is a great option, the immediate priority should be to maintain child care and prevent its collapse.

Danny Carroll (LRC Public Information)

Carroll, who is the president and CEO of Easter Seals West Kentucky, which includes a child care center, echoed Vanover’s sentiments. He cautioned against Beshear’s preschool proposals, highlighting that they would be tied to the traditional school schedule and may not meet the needs of many families.

Sen. Stephen Meredith expressed his concern that public schools are not currently equipped to take on additional responsibilities with the inclusion of pre-kindergarten instruction.

Meredith also pointed out that resolving this matter would require more than a short-term effort. He acknowledged the need to build the necessary infrastructure over a longer period of time.

Carroll praised the existing foundation of child care in Kentucky but stressed that the state needs to invest more to sustain it in the future. He emphasized the importance of child care for workforce participation and regarded preschool and early childhood education as integral parts of the education system.

According to Carroll, until early childhood education is recognized and funded as part of the education system, progress will be limited.

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